TALLAHASSEE — Florida's incoming governor and other newly elected Republicans on Friday joined a chorus of politicians and others who have been urging the Environmental Protection Agency to delay new water pollution rules.
A lawyer for environmental groups, though, said they've been brainwashed by state officials who inflated the costs of complying with the new rules.
Gov.-elect Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Adam Putnam, Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi and five incoming U.S. representatives sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to postpone action.
The EPA is set to announce the standards Monday. They are required by the settlement of a federal lawsuit that environmental groups had filed against the agency. The rules are designed to abate pollution, including discharges from inefficient sewage treatment plants and septic tanks and runoff from farms and urban areas, that's choking lakes, rivers and other interior Florida waters with algae blooms.
Politicians, agriculture and business interests, and some state and local government officials say the rules will be too costly and set back Florida's economic recovery. Friday's letter also makes that argument.
"According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA mandates set to be finalized this November 14 will impose capital costs of over $4 billion on municipal wastewater treatment utilities and over $17 billion on municipal storm water utilities," the letter says.
The state agency's figures are based on reverse-osmosis, the most costly form of wastewater treatment, rather than cheaper systems actually used and required, said David Guest of Earthjustice, an environmental legal group.
"The cost exceeds by from 30 to 50 times the real costs," Guest said. "These are scare tactics."
Earthjustice represents the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and St. Johns Riverkeeper in the lawsuit. It accused the EPA of failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972 "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters."
The Florida rules will be the first of their kind in the nation and may set a precedent for other states.
The EPA already has delayed the rules by a month because of similar objections from other Florida politicians, and it has postponed similar rules affecting downstream and coastal waters until next year.
The congressional newcomers who signed the letter are Reps. Richard Nugent of Spring Hill, David Rivera of Miami, Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Steve Southerland of Panama City and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden.